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5 Questions with Reckitt’s Ganesh Sivakumar

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More than 400 data, analytics, and IT leaders from retail and consumer brands recently convened virtually for the Analytics Unite summit. The event included three inspiring days of conversation and content about the ways in which analytics will shape the future of business - a topic of keen interest to many brands right now as it’s never been more important to have a solid data and analytics strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumers’ moves to online shopping and digital brand discovery; in response, companies accelerated their investment in digital transformation by three to four years, according to a McKinsey Global Survey. An IDC study revealed that 55% of surveyed Chief Information Officers (CIOs) now enjoy more influence at work, with business leadership now recognizing CIOs’ potential as enablers of digital transformation. 

Ganesh Sivakumar is one leader who has experienced a shift in how his organization sees and appreciates the role of data and analytics. As Head of Data and Analytics at Reckitt, a global hygiene, health, and nutrition brand, Ganesh is responsible for leading the organization’s transformation into a data- and insights-driven business. We spoke to him at Analytics Unite about embarking on this journey during a global pandemic. Missed our conversation at the summit? Here are the highlights:

You started at Reckitt just as the pandemic began shutting things down. How has your first year in the role been?

Despite only meeting my boss once in person and never actually meeting with my team, we accomplished a lot. And I was glad to be a part of Reckitt at this time. Our mission is to protect, heal, and nurture, which aligned perfectly with consumers’ needs over the last year. Our products helped people get through the pandemic - everything from disinfectants like Lysol to medications like Mucinex. The pandemic really highlighted how important it is to have the right data to make the right decisions at the right time; with an intelligently connected global organization, we can better execute our mission. 

What are some of the challenges you’re facing in terms of moving Reckitt towards a digital transformation?

There have been two main challenges, both of which I’ve found to be common across many organizations in the past 20 years: a fragmented data and analytics team and a business that spends 80% of their time focused on the “what” of data rather than the “why”, or debating data rather than making use of it. 

How are you overcoming these challenges and getting the broader organization to understand the value of data and analytics?

You have to acknowledge that adoption of a new data and analytics strategy won’t happen by force. So for the first few months, I focused on asking the right questions of our data champions in order to illuminate a path towards execution. My strategy since then has been to democratize our data capabilities with a hybrid centralized/decentralized model. Cross-functional teams can co-create and collaborate in a decentralized way; you’ll see more innovation when you have citizen data scientists and engineers contributing their unique perspectives and strengths to the larger group. It builds trust that there is a seat at the table for everyone across the business, that the business leaders are the ones who are really on this journey and the data and analytics team is simply facilitating. But while you decentralize the roles and responsibilities, you still need to have a centralized source of data truth. That helps everyone feel confident that they can trust the data to make big decisions. 

The other important element of success is timing. You can’t move too slowly. I have an entrepreneurial vision for Reckitt’s North American product and platform strategy. We move fast, take risks, and then do a retrospective to ensure the ROI was really there. We’re continually improving and refining our approach, with input from our product council to make sure we’re always aligned with business needs.

How is Signals Analytics making an impact for Reckitt?

We have ambitious plans to grow our vitamins, minerals, and supplements (VMS) portfolio over the next five years. And we know that product innovation will be key to achieving our goals. Incorporating Signals Analytics data into our own internal review aggregation tool has resulted in much richer insights and answers to forecasting questions. Our home-grown solution tells us which products are selling online; layering in the Signals Analytics data has helped us understand why those products are selling. And the forecasting capabilities are incredible; we can now see the emerging ingredients and products that aren’t selling yet, but will be big in the coming years, giving us time to develop products that we know will be a success. Now we have a holistic view of the entire VMS ecosystem and the predictive analytics that will drive product innovation success over the next five years.

What advice do you have for leaders who are just starting on a data journey?

Before you begin, know that data transformation is a total culture shift. It’s not only about bringing in new technology, but also about adapting to that technology. This shift cannot just be top-down. It has to be bottom-up, too. But it is tremendously helpful to have a thought leader involved who can play a vital role in the transformation - a Chief Digital Officer or Chief Data Analytics Officer. This person can clarify a strategy around key business impacts and outcomes in addition to the tactical technology strategy. The data and analytics team should align with and enable all parts of that strategy.

If you are embarking on your own data transformation journey, contact us to see how your organization could benefit from powerful market intelligence.

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Chris Thatcher
5W Public Relations 646-430-5161
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